Interview with Claire & Mary of Allium B
Claire & Mary Burgees are sisters that have worked with major brands on the high-street. Previously acting as Topshop Heads of Buying and Merchandising. Allium B is their new brand created from frustration of not finding dresses they would want on the high-street . I had a quick chat with Claire & Mary at the launch of the new collection.
What made you move on from Topshop?
Claire: It was something I talked about with my sister for a long time, from our point of view it was an opportunity and if we didn't do it now we’ll never do it. We felt there was a easy fashion where you can dress up, dress down and keep very clean throughout the day and I think we achieved that.
Would you say your time at Topshop influenced the brand?
Claire: I haven’t let it influence the brand at all, we focused on our customer and I believe we have a few dresses Topshop would happily sell.
So it’s not Anti-high Street?
Claire: Not at all, I won’t say that. We’re just filling a gap and we want to create easy dresses that will take you from day wear into evening wear with ease. Our attention to detail is usually not seen in high-street but on branded products in department stores.
Margins became important in the High-Street, and to me the product is king. Everybody was walking away from the slightly higher element of the high-street. Cost prices were going up but people didn’t want to squeeze their margins so something had to give, and quality was what was given. This is why it’s all natural fibers, with no polyesters within our range.
How do you design a collection, do you have a certain creative process?
Mary: Well there's a lot, we do look at vintage, we have a dress that was inspired by a 1930’s dress that came apart and only the collar was left! So we designed a dress around it. We look at everything, we look at what people are wearing, the catwalks, past influences but we also have a fantastic designer that works with us.
Claire: For something to be in the collection, we must truly love it and we are dress girls, our careers has always been about buying dresses for the majors on high streets.
What is the Dress Club?
Claire: We are a website and not planning to sell in stores so we wanted a way to get people together and let people see the range but also to reward our best customers. So people who buy from us will get points to buy something else, but also on their birthdays they would get discounts.
Mary: It just a way to say thank you, retailers don't thank their customers enough. A little email on your birthday saying “Heres a discount to your next frock” goes a long way.
Is there anything else you'll like the readers to know?
Claire: We are not age specific; on the other hand we’re not targeting teenagers. When we were looking for models to shoot the range, all the agencies were saying: “Use a 17-18 yr old, you can make them look older” but why would we do that? So our model Vanessa is 30 and it's important for us to show our clothes on someone that's not a teenager. Some of the brands we are competing with put their clothes on a 17 year old. Vanessa is absolutely beautiful and she has a few wrinkles around her eyes, and that's great. We love that!
Interview and Photos: Patrick Odai